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Midterms mayhem: a survival guide


Andrew Mazariegos-Ovalle/The Olaf Messenger


There’s no one-size-fits-all tip to nailing your midterms, but there are a few ingredients you can count on to cook up a decent batch of academic success.


Here’s some advice from my recipe book:


  1. Prioritize sleep. You will get more work done doing an hour each night and morning than you will pushing through an exhausting six-hour stint.


  1. Put your phone on “Do Not Disturb,” and keep it out of sight. After 25, 30, 40 minutes, check for messages. Forgive and embrace the fact that reviewing takes time — time deservedly yours, unbroken by a buzz.


  1. Make a flexible, spaced-out study schedule. Just as lifting weights week after week builds muscle, retaining course material requires successive review.


  1. Don’t study in one spot for too long. I once made a spin-the-wheel of campus study spots, and my roommate and I got a kick out of the suspense — will it be Holland? Will it be Larson? It’s landing on Rolvaag… wait, no, it’s CAD!


  1. Clean. It’s an easy way to scratch the “I’m-in-control” itch.


  1. Exercise. I like to do this in the morning during midterms week. When I work out, I feel like I have so much to give the world. Exams can be an opportunity, rather than an obligation, to unspool one’s life energy towards another goal.


  1. Don’t self-isolate. Especially if you are a healing perfectionist, self-isolation leads to a perpetuating cycle of uncertainty, culminating in the fear that you’ll never study enough for the exam.


  1. Instead of isolation, embrace little pockets of joy. Bake brownies. Watch the squirrels. Dance with friends. Remember life beyond work, and focusing will be easier when you return.


  1. Don’t skip meals, especially on the day of the exam. Your brain consumes an enormous amount of energy. You literally need those calories to think.


  1. Let yourself cry. And then move on. I highly recommend the bathroom in the Undercroft. 10/10 sob spot.


  1. Remind yourself that these are only exams. I think of it this way: exams are a training ground for discipline, endurance, and self-acceptance. It’s about meeting yourself where you are, saying, “Ok, I don’t understand this perfectly, but how can I try to take this on before exam day?” Be proud of the work you do. These exams are a road to self-relationship. Take a deep breath, and choose to be here. When you’re present, bringing yourself — not obscuring what you lack and what you hope to gain — you’ve already triumphed.


Olivia Hebblewhite is from Waunakee, Wis.

Her majors are English and environmental studies.

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